It’s Been Rejected, But I Still Like It

Checked Out

Frank presents me with a long strip of paper
like a register receipt or a fax, shiny

and slippery over my fingers.
A long straight line for six inches

until there’s a bump like a hiccup
followed by another, then another, a whole series

of hiccups: “That’s where I started CPR–
He had no pulse and wasn’t breathing.”

The undulations continue down the strip and some
have jagged edges or flat tops like mesas:

“Somebody touched him.” “We intubated him.”
Frank’s expression reminds me of my cat

when she kills some small animal and leaves
it on the breezeway step.

The paper slithers along the hardwood
and I picture Frank, arms pumping steadily

bright fluorescence bouncing off trauma glasses. The line levels off
at the ragged right edge of the paper: “We called him.”

I hold between my index finger
and right thumb the record of the end of a man’s life

while jazz (Miles? Coltrane?) floats in the background and
sweet corn bubbles brightly on the stove.

Draft #? ; first version written for Poetry Workshop at SAIC in 1998/99.

One of three submitted to the Crab Orchard Review

and rejected within 48 hours. Commendable turnaround time, really.


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